Victoza, the brand name for Liraglutide, is a prescription medicine that is used to improve blood sugar levels in patients of type 2 diabetes.
While there are many drugs and formulations available that can help diabetic patients keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range, what makes Victoza different from most of them is the fact that it is not insulin.
The medicine is generally prescribed after other diabetes medicines have been tried without much success and is generally directed to be used along with exercise and a healthy diet. According to the manufacturer’s claims, it can also help lower the risks of heart attack and stroke associated with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How Does Victoza Help With Diabetes?
Liraglutide, the active ingredient in Victoza, is similar to the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone and works the same way to keep blood sugar levels in control.
Glucagon-like peptide 1 belongs to the class of hormones – called incretins – that increase the secretion of insulin in the body. Produced by L-cells found in the inner lining of small intestines and, in small quantities, by the pancreas and the CNS, the hormone is released in the body in response to food. Here’s what it does in the body:
- It promotes the feeling of fullness by keeping food in the stomach for longer (it slows down the process of food leaving stomach), as well as by having an impact on appetite centers in the brain.
- Increases the volume of beta cells; the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
- Signals the pancreas to start releasing insulin.
- Prevents the release of glucagon.
Limitations of Use
Victoza is not meant to be used for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The medicine has only recently been approved by the FDA for pediatric use, in children 10 years or older, and is the first non-insulin drug approved for pediatric patients of type 2 diabetes. It should not be used in children under 10 years of age.
Also, do not use Victoza if you have or have had a history of any of the following health conditions:
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 – tumors in your glands
- Medullary thyroid cancer (Victoza may not be suitable for you if you have a family history of this type of cancer)
- Insulin-dependent diabetes
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Thyroid tumor. Immediately inform your doctor if you develop symptoms of thyroid tumor while using Victoza. Some common signs of thyroid tumor include a hoarse voice, shortness of breath, difficulty in swallowing, swelling and/or lump in the neck.
What to Tell Your Doctor Before Using Victoza?
Before you begin your treatment with Victoza, make sure to tell your doctor if you have any of the following health conditions:
- Any stomach problem that is slowing down your digestive system
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart issues
- High levels of triglycerides
- Any problem (or history of issues) with the gallbladder and/or pancreas
- Do tell your doctor if you are suffering from or have had a history of depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
While it is not known if Victoza has any effects on the fetus or if it passes into breast milk, it is recommended to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or a nursing mother.
Recommended Dosage of Victoza
The dosage may vary from person to person (consult your doctor to determine the right dosage for yourself). But, the treatment for Victoza is generally initiated with a 0.6 mg dose, once a day. While most children respond well to this dosage and hence, are kept on it for as long as needed, adults do not experience any noticeable results.
In adults, the initial 0.6 mg dose is meant to reduce the gastrointestinal symptoms most people experience during the titration phase.
For those who do not know, titration or drug titration is the process of determining the right dose of a drug, for each patient, to get the maximum benefits.
When treated with Victoza, adult patients are generally kept on the minimum dosage i.e., 0.6 mg per day, for a week. After one week, the dosage is typically increased to 1.2 mg once a day and the effects are monitored. If the dosage fails to provide adequate glycemic control, it is increased to 1.8 mg, once a day, after another week.
How is Victoza Supplied?
The non-insulin diabetes medication comes in a multi-dose pen injection in 18 mg/3 ml strength. The pre-filled injection can deliver 0.6 mg, 1.2 mg, or 1.8 mg doses.
Storage Directions for Victoza
Here are a few storage instructions for Victoza that you should follow to make sure the medicine remains safe and effective:
- Store new (unopened) Victoza injections in the refrigerator between 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit (2-8 degrees centigrade).
- Never store Victoza in the freezer.
- Do not use the medicine if it has been frozen.
- After opening, the Victoza pen can be used for 30 days.
- Opened injections can be stored either in the refrigerator (between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) or at controlled room temperature between 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (15-30 degrees centigrade).
- Protect the injections from excessive sunlight and heat.
- Do not store the Vicotza pen with the needle attached as this could increase the potential risks for leakage, which then can reduce dosage accuracy, contamination, and infections.
- Always keep the cap on when the Victoza pen is not in use.
How to Use Victoza?
Inject the medicine under the skin once a day, at any time, with or without food.
Important Instructions for Safe Use of Victoza
In addition to sticking to the prescribed dose, here are a few things that you should remember to ensure the safe use of the drug:
- Inspect the injection every time and do not use it if the solution is cloudy, has particles, or has changed color.
- Do not use the injection at the same site two times in a row.
- Do not use Victoza with Saxenda. Both the medicines contain the same active ingredient, which means using them together can significantly increase the effects as well as the risks for adverse reactions. Never use these two medicines together.
- While Victoza can be used with long-acting insulin and both the drugs can be injected at the same time, do not administer them at the same site or right next to each other. Use both the injections at different places on your body.
Possible Side Effects of Victoza
Here are some of the potential side effects you can experience with Victoza use:
- Nausea, particularly during the first few days of starting your Victoza treatment
- Stomach pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Lack of energy or feeling tired for no apparent reason
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in lower back or sides
- Runny nose
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Muscle pain
Serious Side Effects of Victoza
While the chances are very less, some patients may experience serious side effects with Victoza. Immediately consult your doctor if you experience any of the following conditions while using the drug:
- An allergic reaction with any of the ingredients present in the medicine – symptoms include swelling of lips, the tongue, the throat, and/or face, fast heartbeat, trouble in swallowing and/or breathing, dizziness, hives.
- Severe and persistent diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
- Sudden and drastic mood and/or behavioral changes.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Gallbladder problems – signs include pain in the upper stomach, dark or clay-colored stool, fever, jaundice.
- Kidney issues – symptoms include difficult or painful urination, swelling in the ankles or feet, shortness of breath, feeling tried, reduced or no urination.
- Symptoms of pancreatitis – increased heart rate, nausea with or without vomiting, severe pain in the upper stomach that spreads to the back.
- Symptoms of a thyroid tumor – shortness of breath, hoarse voice, difficulty in swallowing, swelling and/or lump in the neck.
All diabetic patients are at the risk of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and it may increase with the use of diabetes medications. Therefore, it is highly recommended not to change the prescribed dosage on your own and notice the signs and symptoms you are experiencing.
Common symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) include extreme weakness, increased breathing and/or heart rate, excessive sweating, hunger, confusion, irritability, feeling anxious, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, tremors, and seizures.
If you are at a high risk of hypoglycemia, your doctor may prescribe you a glucagon emergency injection kit to treat severe cases of hypoglycemia when you are unable to eat or drink. Make sure to keep the kit handy all the time, if you have been prescribed with it, and tell your family, friends, and colleagues about it, so they can treat you in case of an emergency.
Also, watch out for the signs of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Its symptoms include increased thirst, increased urination, headache, feeling tired, blurred vision.
Prescription Assistance for Victoza
Vicotza is one of the most expensive diabetes medications – the price for a 6 ml injection is around $650.
Knowing that a large number of diabetes patients in the US are uninsured or underinsured and cannot even afford to buy this medicine, Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures it, offers prescription assistance for the drug.
Under the Victoza Savings Card Program, eligible patients can get their supply of the non-insulin diabetes medication for as low as $25, at least for up to 2 years.
Novo Nordisk also runs a Patient Assistance Program under which diabetes medicines are provided free of cost to eligible patients. Click here to see the eligibility criteria and to learn about the application procedure.
Not eligible for any of these?
Don’t worry – visit Drugs.com to get a discount card that can help you save up to 80% on your medicines at almost all leading pharmacies of the country.